In my last article, I discussed how to get the most value out of your existing systems. This article will focus on how to choose where you invest new funds and which areas are often selected through this process.
Over my many years of working at Bottle Rocket in the technology organization, I’ve seen our clients make many wise (and a few foolish) investments, but there have been several trends that have risen to the top as recommendations we usually make.
The 80/20 Rule
One of the first steps to analyzing which systems you should invest in is to do some analysis of which systems your employees and customers are using. What we’ve seen is the classic 80/20 rule, where 20% of the features are used 80% of the time, and so optimization and investment in those areas will pay off much sooner and make a bigger difference in the perception of the experience.
A surprising area that we see better returns from is API investment. The magical invisible backend that runs everything is often ignored because it’s not flashy and certainly not visible, but since it powers nearly everything and provides data to all the visible systems, it is critical to keep operational.
There are many reports of systems failing due to neglected backend systems, but we’ve also seen forward progress held back because upgrades to the backend have to be done first. With the correct API-first mindset, you can allow for future expansion into new technologies much easier than if everything retains the monolith web architecture that it was originally designed for.
Creating A Scalable Solution
On the topic of backend investments, you may want to consider migrating some older systems to standard, modern services. Often a system was initially built a decade ago from scratch but now could be replaced with a configured SaaS and would inherently be easier to maintain and potentially even lower costs overall.
This is not to say that everything should move to the cloud, but knowing which services to keep building instead of buying is really worth a full analysis. Even if you want to continue building them, you may see huge savings by using a modern, scalable infrastructure like Kubernetes versus deploying your own LAMP stack systems.
Regardless of the technology used, creating a scalable solution should be at the forefront of your plans—not only to scale up but to scale down as demand drops off. The money saved from scaling down in low-utilization periods can offset costs when demand spikes. Scaling up is usually the bigger challenge, but we’ve all seen what happens when companies aren’t able to scale to meet demand, even when that demand comes from an unexpected source.
Allowing For A Rapid Response
Invariably, no matter how much planning you do or how many investments you make into upgrades, something will happen that you couldn’t foresee. When it does, you want to be able to figure out where the problem is as quickly as possible.
The first step of any debugging process is to figure out what is causing the problem, and every additional system introduces another potential point of failure. Logging every action and reaction is not feasible with the complexity of modern systems, but having strategic monitoring of critical systems and the ability to enable logging quickly when problems arise can save minutes or hours. In our modern environments, you can never move too quickly.
Related to the automatic monitoring of systems would be the automatic deployment of systems with updates. A solid CI/CD pipeline saves hours of manual time and means that fixes for issues can be pushed more easily as well. I think always having a “one-click deployment” strategy may be a bit extreme, but you want a process that can be done without a plethora of manual steps that are repeated without any thought. Checkpoints for stability and quality are always good to do manually and to make sure a rogue actor hasn’t caused a deployment stealthily, but even on small projects, you can see a high ROI on any automation that is added.
Making Every Investment A Wise One
No matter the strength of the economy or your business, it’s important to try to make every expenditure a wise one. The investments mentioned above will likely have long-term benefits and help set up your infrastructure for further expansion, thus saving time and money in future projects.
The information provided here is not investment advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.